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Preckwinkle imposes spending freeze

By at January 13, 2011 | 3:56 am | Print

Originally published December 13, 2010–Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued her first executive order on Monday imposing a moratorium on non-essential capital and professional service contracts.

This is the first of the major initiatives outlined in Preckwinkle’s transition report, released last week. Preckwinkle said the moratorium is a cornerstone of the much-needed overhaul of County spending strategies.

“This is the first step toward ending waste in Cook County and it clearly demonstrates our commitment to fiscal responsibility. This is how we are going to institute a new era of accountability in County government,” she said.

Prior to this, a number of significant capital projects were underway without any consideration for long-term planning or a coordinated capital plan. Cook County currently has roughly $495 million in active contracts coupled with $191 million in planned projects. The capital moratorium could save tens of millions of dollars, according to an analysis conducted by the Preckwinkle’s transition team and Administrative staff. It will offload bad contracts and lay the groundwork for a more strategic approach to capital and professional services spending.

“What this means is all non-essential capital projects and professional service contracts that can be terminated will be terminated. We won’t spend like the County did in the past. We’re creating an process to review, defer, restructure and even eliminate the ill-advised contracts and wasteful spending that marked the previous administration.”

Preckwinkle’s executive order affects only non-essential projects. Exceptions have been made for projects that affect public health and safety, regulatory requirements or instances where the projects are contingent on a commitment from outside funding, such as matching grants.

The County faces a budget deficit of nearly $500 million for FY2011. A balanced FY2011 budget will be submitted by the Office of the Cook County Board President to the Board of Commissioners for review by the end of January. The budget must be approved by the Cook County Board by Feb. 28.  Preckwinkle has asked elected officials and department heads to cut 21 percent from their budgets to balance the FY2011 budget.

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